After three days of intense workshops and rehearsals, the largest group of female artists ever to perform at Central Australia’s premiere Indigenous music event Bush Bands Bash stepped out on stage on Sunday.
Singer songwriters Cassii Williams, Trish Coleman and Jess Grainer, together with seven-piece female rock band Ripple Effect, performed alongside big name bands Black Rock Band, Saltwater Band and Southeast Desert Metal to a crowd of around 3000 people from across the Northern Territory.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of Bush Bands Bash, but women have only been performing on the main stage since 2016. Ripple Effect are the largest all-female band ever to take the stage.
Commanding the crowd's attention with a wave of her arm, singer Marita Wilton brought the issue of representation front and centre.
“We come from Arnhem land, long way, saltwater country," she declared.
"We want to inspire young women out there to feel confidence and respect themselves and love themselves and believe in themselves in their heart from who they are and where they come from!”
Ripple Effect sing in the four languages spoken in and around Maningrida, as well as English. Their music has a strong bassy rock feel with band members on guitar, bass and drums.
Reflecting on what motivates her to perform, singer Ms Wilton told NITV News, “it’s too complicated in our community".
"They end up in fighting, jelousing, bossing, and us women we don't deserve to be treated like that. We have to have respect for each other.”
“That’s deadly! Not only are they a group of girls and women but they are young mothers."
Arrernte woman Shirley Turner was in the crowd and excited to see the band perform.
“That’s deadly! Not only are they a group of girls and women but they are young mothers. To see them playing guitars and playing drums, I hope the desert people play like them too!” she said.
Eight-year-old Tasharnii Voller from Alice Springs was also impressed by the performance.
“I think it encouraged us as little girls that want to play guitars and other things that they actually can do it and don’t let other people say you can’t do it,” she said.
Bush Bands Bash program manager Laurie May says she's keen to support more women to perform at the event.
“I think it’s very important for young Aboriginal women to be able to see and experience Aboriginal women on stage performing," she said.
"I think it’s empowering because you can stand there are look at that woman on stage and go 'I can do that, there is an opportunity that I can take and I would be welcome up there'.”
Singer songwriter Patsy Coleman from Darwin performed soulful country pieces early in the evening.
“I find as a songwriter when I do get to perform, when someone comes up to you afterwards and says 'well actually that relates to me' or 'I really felt that song as a mother', I think it's really great," she said.
"I just want other women out there to not be afraid and to try something like this."
Also performing at Bush Bands Bash was Saltwater Band from Arnhem Land, a group Ripple Effect members look up to for inspiration and support.
Saltwater's lead singer Manual Dhurrkay says he would like to see more women on the stage.
“We want to try support the girls to form their own band so they can play their own songs and sing and not just the boys singing in the band,” he said.
Singer and bassist Jodie Kell from Ripple Effect hopes their band name becomes a reality. Her son gave the band its name when he said that it was 'like a ripple effect'.
"It's just the beginning of a growing movement of women playing music.”
Singer songwriter Jessie Grainer hopes other women join her and other performers on stage in the future.
“There’s a lot of women doing this at home, that are writing music, playing music at home. And seeing us performing at Bush Bands, they might be like ‘yes, I can do it, if they can, I can’.”
Marita Wilton wants to see more all-female bands from remote communities.
“We want you mob to be proud of us because we are Ripple Effect. We’re doing it for Maningrida kids and all the remote community and all the women. I’m looking at young girls in Maningrida to join us, or they can make their own band,” she said.
“We’re not doing this for us. We’re doing it for back in our community. We want to support our community, especially the younger ones."
Music NT chief executive Mark Smith says while its traditionally been a male dominated sector, he's hopeful it's changing.
"A lot of work has been done to try to break down access. A lot of the time the access was quite male dominated,” he told NITV News.